Sifting Through BarackObama@Gmail.com
SCOTT SIMON, host:
A layer of online intrigue is a particular email address, barackobama - all one word - @gmail.com. This is not Senator Obama's private email that he uses to buy books from Amazon or talk with friends from Harvard. It's an email set up by a young man, Guru Raj, just after graduating from the University of Virginia in 2004. He's here in our studios. Mr. Raj, thanks for being with us.
Mr. GURU RAJ (Creator, Barackobama@gmail.com): Thanks for having me, Scott.
SIMON: Why did you pick that name?
Mr. RAJ: I signed up with Gmail in 2004 and originally wanted to get firstname.lastname@example.org, my name. Unfortunately, it was already taken. And you know, I was watching the Democratic National Convention at that time, watching Mr. Obama speak, and decided, hey, let's see if this one is available. And to my amazement, it actually was.
SIMON: So what kind of email have you been getting? Could you share some with us?
Mr. RAJ: Sure. One is from a sophomore at George Washington University who writes, "Although I'm sure you probably don't have the time to write back, I just wanted to say to you that your career in politics has been an inspiration to me. I always worry that I'm going to lose my idealism as I get older, but it's refreshing to see someone like yourself who continues to fight the good fight."
SIMON: Another one?
Mr. RAJ: Sure. Another one here is an e-vite for Annie's birthday. "We're celebrating Annie's birthday so wear your celebration shoes. I invited Barack, but he hasn't responded yet. I can only assume that he's coming, though. See you on Saturday."
SIMON: Oh, that's hilarious. So there were either some long faces, or she really had a lot of explaining to do with her friends.
Mr. RAJ: Correct.
SIMON: Any nasty stuff?
Mr. RAJ: Not really. There is one gentleman who has enrolled email@example.com on an email list that is for what past Hillary supporters should do in the 2008 election. Some interesting stuff that has come across the transom there, but nothing really nasty.
SIMON: Do you respond?
Mr. RAJ: I don't. That was one thing that I was very explicit about before signing up for the email address, that it is not my intention to play the role of someone else. It's really just more for me and an insight into types of things that people would want to share with Mr. Obama.
SIMON: But what if President Ahmadinejad in Iran decides he wants a private line of communication to Senator Obama and decides to use that email address, and he gets you? You're not even going to write him back and say he got the wrong guy.
Mr. RAJ: Well, I'm sure that the NSA has some filters in place that might be able to catch it, but if there's ever anything important that came by, I would definitely send it to the correct authorities.
SIMON: Does having firstname.lastname@example.org as an email address influence whatever sentiments you have about the election?
Mr. RAJ: Thinking back on the speech that he made in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention, it was a very powerful speech. It was one that for me really introduced me to someone who stood for the things that I agreed with and I understood, but didn't necessarily look like the traditional politician. Having the email address has really just added a little more life into that in seeing other people's perspectives. Living in Washington, D.C. and seeing - having a lot of friends that work on the Hill and that work in politics. Politics is something that I think is a lot more local, it's a lot more personal, it's a lot less sometimes what we see here in the Beltway.
SIMON: It's a secret ballot, but do you intend to vote for the senator?
Mr. RAJ: I haven't made up my mind yet.
SIMON: Guru Raj, thanks so much.
Mr. RAJ: Thank you.
SIMON: This is NPR News.